The Necessary Evil…

One thing I’ve been extremely passionate about for most of my life, aside from music, is human psychology. I’ve always loved thinking about human behavior and social interaction, even studying it to great lengths in my free time(not to sound like a sociopath/narcissist).
For all the negative things I have to say about the hospitality industry it does a few things right, and one of those things is forcing you to learn people skills and customer service skills. You just wont survive in the industry without them, customers are always going to have problems and learning how to deal with them is absolutely necessary and personally I’ve always found it very rewarding. This is true for the hospitality industry and guess what; it’s true for almost every industry, if you’re not working for people, you’re working with people, if you’re not working with people, people are working for you. No matter how you spin it, you need people skills.

Bartender.jpgFriendly Right?

This week, I wanted to specifically explore the ways in which skills I’ve learned in the hospitality industry can be related to skills I would need in the game audio industry.
Ellen Galinksy from Big Think highlights in this video, 7 skills she feels are essential for life, I’ve listed them below:

  • Focus and Self Control
  • Taking Perspective (Standing in some else’s shoes)
  • Communication
  • Networking
  • Critical Thinking
  • Taking on Challenges
  • Self-Directed Learning

What I found interesting about this is that most of these skills I picked up while working in restaurants, and when you compare them to these articles by Emily Nodine, ABS and Danielle Bertoli you can see that (although said in different ways) I’m not alone. These skills are directly related to nearly all fields of work, especially the creative industries. I feel most people starting out in the creative fields are lacking in a number of these skills and I believe everyone develops them with age, although if you wanted a jump start, I would recommend getting a part-time or casual job at a restaurant. You don’t know effective communication until you’ve managed to give a co-worker a very specific description of a customer who walked away without their cocktail into a see of a thousand people all the while pouring another drink with one hand, taking a reservation on the phone with the other and still managing to somehow take orders over the 120dB noise floor. Not to mention the hundred other things that are in the back of your mind that you’re trying to remember so that customer doesn’t yell at you again. Compare that to a busy Game Studio nearing a deadline, I’d take the studio any day. Keith Gilette explains the importance of these skills within the Game Industry in this presentation.

As always there is room for self improvement and I feel like personally I need to work on a lot of these skills, particularly communication as I have a tendency to ramble or not always say exactly what I mean. But all in all, I think Ellen Galinsky has outlined a fantastic set of essential life skills for everybody to develop, especially if they want to be a part of the ever expanding creative industry.

 

 

The Necessary Evil…

Hey That Sounds Like…

Copyright is an interesting topic when thinking about the world in general, however it becomes that much more important when thinking about the creative industries. What’s interesting to me about copyright an creativity is mainly the mystery surrounding originality. In current music culture, the remix is a prominent form of music and it’s literally built out of other peoples songs, somehow this is okay?
As an aspiring composer and sound designer I’m always creating songs and sounds that are in ways similar to works I, or somebody I know, has heard before, and of course I’m interested in the consequences of this. If I hear a song I like and I feel like the way the bass is played would be really good for the piece I’m working on is it wrong for me to copy it? There’s always that fear that I’ll make a great song and then after it’s released someone will come along and sue me because it sounds like someone else’s works or bits of it anyway.

Here you can hear one of DJ Earworms United State of Pop remixes in which he takes parts from all the chart toppers of 2015 and makes an entire song out of these parts. I don’t think the question is whether DJ Earworm is creative as many consider his works to be a fantastic way to review the music culture and trends of a year. Jan O’Brien says in her article here that Earworms mashups remind us that in 2009 music was all about getting back up after getting knocked down and 2010 is all about partying. Earworm makes a point about this in the following video saying he plans the mashups according to a trend, for example the 2015 remix is about addiction and needing more. This is interesting because it shows not only is there value in listening to his arrangements as entertainment but they also have a deeper message which would have taken some thought to implement.

In the same video DJ Earworm remarks that he is constantly “walking on eggshells” as in he doesn’t know when he’s going to get in trouble for creating these works. Tim White in this article explains that Earworm is in fact in violation of a number of different copyright laws, however, as he is purely not-for-profit it is general practice for the actual license holders of the music not to sue. This works well as the world would be a pretty sad place if Earworm could be disadvantaged simple for creating something people enjoy. To sum up, remixing like Earworm has done, from a musical standpoint is considered copying and can’t be sold.

In contrast looking at the song “Last Night” by the Strokes and comparing it to “American Girl” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers several similarities can be identified, particularly in the rhythm section. However no copyright laws are in breach here and that is because although the musical ideas are similar they are ultimately delivered in a way that allows them to be different.

Because it is not my goal to directly sample and use other people music, like DJ Earworm but instead use similar musical ideas like The Strokes, I feel like I shouldn’t be too worried about getting into trouble with copyright laws. In conclusion it seems like copyright laws are based on common sense and if something sounds the same it’s usually because its been copied.

Hey That Sounds Like…

The Necessary Evils?

The idea of the “Day Job” has been a big part of my life ever since I finished high school, although, for me personally it has been more of a “Night Job”, the function remains the same. The “Day Job” is the job you do to make money and pay for important things like rent and food, it also implies that you have a side project such as a hobby or business.

Personally I’ve used Part-Time work in restaurants to get myself through university and fund my creative projects, not to mention the important things like rent and food. In my experience this is not un-common among creative individuals trying to make a living from their work. I’ve often used money from my “Day Job” to buy things such as equipment, licenses and marketing and I’m definitely not alone. Although I owe a lot to my “Day Job” I’ve always wondered are those 20+ hours a week wasted? I mean, obviously not in the financial sense, but in the sense that my goals as an Audio Engineer have nothing to do with waiting tables, and I could be spending that time working on the skills that will help me achieve those goals.

day_job_alt1_1400x1400.jpg

Image Credit – Joshua McNichols

As it turns out, I’m not the only one who has considered whether my “Day Job” is a fuel for my creative work or a major distraction.
Natalie Davis from Design Sponge(http://paidtoexist.com/how-i-used-my-day-job-to-fund-my-freedom-business/) explains that having her Day Job was necessary and she feels that leaving it was eventually a requirement for her own happiness. Natalie describes the process as being carefully planned out, however, she warns that eventually, much like a trapeze artist hanging on a swing, there was a leap of faith moment in which she needed to let go of her Day Job. This is one way in which I’d like to go about my own transition, but, I feel like I’m likely to plan for too long and be afraid to make that leap all the while being stuck with my complaints of wasting time at my “Day Job”.
Tom Hess(https://tomhess.net/MusicCareerBackUpPlans.aspx) explains that the Day Job is a horrible trap that aspiring entrepreneurs get stuck in by saying that the security and comfort they provide makes it logically(at least from a financial stand point) impossible to justify leaving. Tom appears to justify my own fears about the “Day Job” and makes me feel like quitting is the best course of action in order to maximise my own attention and energy. He includes a quote by Jim Rohn that explains how this waste of your own energy could just be fuel for someone else’s business and how that could be a bad thing for you.

“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” Jim Rohn (http://startupbros.com/the-harsh-truth-why-your-side-business-is-failing-and-how-to-fix-it/)

Finally, Johnathan Mead wisely advises using your “Day Job”, not only as financial fuel, but to use it in every way possible to help your side business. While still weening off his hours at work he used task optimization and other organisation skills to do his current job extremely efficiently. He said these skills he developed were crucial to the success of his side business, which eventually became his full time job (http://theabundantartist.com/how-to-build-an-art-business-while-working-a-day-job/).

Even though at times I feel like up and quitting my “Day Job” it seems as though professionals who have been where I am would advise on staying and planning a gradual transition with a leap of faith moment, all the while making the most out of anything I can learn. This seems like a justifiable course of action and I will begin my transition this week by going to my “Day Job” with a new learn-everything-I-can attitude.

However, all said and done, one day I hope to leave this note on my bosses desk(in a friendly way)!

I Quit(put at end)

 

 

 

 

 

The Necessary Evils?

The Creative Professional Identity

I’ve always been aware of the challenges surrounding getting work in the creative industries. However I never fully considered the difficulties involved with actually working in them until this very week. Ever since I started down this path as a Game Designer the biggest challenge that was right in front of me was “getting noticed”. I never really broke out which was a tough pill to swallow and it eventually led to me giving up. This week as I’ve taken a closer look I now realize that this is just one of the many difficulties that creative individuals have to deal with when working, or trying to get work within the industry.

I’ve included a list at the end (not created entirely by me) that I believe sums up these difficulties, however I wanted to focus on one in particular and hopefully identify why I believe these “difficulties” are a two sided coin.

Quotefancy-1664-3840x2160When I was working with a small group as a Game Designer I personally experienced a great deal of these difficulties although at the time I condensed them into the same problem of not having a budget or not being able to ride off of the fame of a previously released title. At the time the only thing that mattered was success, we wanted to be noticed and we wanted our game to sell. However this obsession with success always distracted us from our project. We would sometimes be thinking more about selling our product than creative solutions to the problems we were having.  Darius Kazemi promotes an opposite approach to this mentality among creative individuals, using his famous lottery analogy:

  • “There are two kinds of creative advice you can get from creative people, The first is how to buy more lottery tickets and the second is how to win the lottery and I think the former is of great use and the latter is nonsense” Darius Kazemi (2014)

What Darius is Trying to explain is that people can help you create something(buy a lottery ticket), but whether or not that creation will be a success is entirely random(win the lottery), and more importantly you shouldn’t bog yourself down creatively by worrying about how successful your creation will be. Although I don’t agree holistically with his approach, as in, I believe you can learn things that will help your creations succeed, Darius certainly raises a good point about focusing on your project and doing the best you can with it rather than worrying about whether people will like it or not.

References:

Darius Kazemi [XOXO Festival]. (2014, Oct 24th). Darius Kazemi, Tiny Subversions – XOXO Festival(2014). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_F9jxsfGCw

(Picture) Author Unknown. (2015). Albert Einstein Quotes. Retrieved from https://quotefancy.com/quote/2353/Albert-Einstein-In-the-middle-of-difficulty-lies-opportunity


 

The Creative Professional Identity

Familiarity Presentation

 

 

Zero 19923. (Jan 11, 2008). Resident Evil Soundtrack "Dining Room". 
Retrieved from URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZg2UwtrEI8

GameChap. (Oct 6, 2015). Super Mario All Superstars 1985-2015. 
Retrieved from URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ExXn5LibLg

Nintendo Unity. (Oct 10, 2014). Evolution of the Super Mario Theme. 
Retrieved from URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TC4DBcGkBOs
Familiarity Presentation

Bear and Bird – A Review

JD Moser, or just “Jay”, is a freelance composer from Regina, Canada. He specializes in video game composition and takes heavy influence from Grant Kirkhope and David Wise, two of the biggest names in video game scoring. Bear and Bird is Jays homage to these composing giants. It is a short, 6 track album developed between the years 2011 and 2013 and can be found on Soundcloud. It was created as a sort of “fantasy” soundtrack for a non-existent game in the Banjo-Kazooie series, where each track represents a different level theme in this non-existent game. Through an analysis I will attempt to review this work not only on it’s musical content but it’s ability to fit with the works it is attempting to emulate.

The music itself, much like the works of JD’s inspirations is derived from jazz. Specifically the “Jump” Piano style of Boogie-Woogie Jazz for it’s rhythm. This gives the tracks a “bouncy” feel, that is extremely fitting for the platformer genre. The rhythm makes you feel the pace as you bounce around the levels and even though Bear and Bird doesn’t have a game to lend itself too you can definitely agree that it would fit straight into the genre.

Being written for a platform-adventure game, the tracks are intended to be listened to for long periods of time. This is where the melody comes in to save us from the rhythm. JD uses lots of high-frequency instruments such as flutes, saxophones and xylophones to make the melodies stand out. To keep things even more interesting JD will “reverse” the instrumentation on the melody and rhythm sections to add even more variety. For example he will switch the flute with tuba to add a sense that the music is “dragging” instead of “bouncing” which causes a dramatic shift in the musics dynamics.

Along with being musically accurate to the works he is trying to emulate JD even uses humorous naming conventions and puns in his song titles. In Banjo Kazooie the theme and name for the snow level is Freezezy peak which humorously tells you that the peak is so cold that it “freezes easily”. JD uses the title “Inca-Venient Trail” to let you know that the song will be for a Mayan themed level and that the path will be “Inconvenient”.
Lastly, as a little spice on top of everything, like those he inspires to be JD uses sound design within his music to truly give a sense of location and theme. For example the howling wind and screeching carrion in “Endervale Range” really give you a sense that your approaching a wide open canyon.

Considering all the individual components that make up these tracks and the creators intent for them to be used as a video game soundtrack, I would conclude that he has succeeded. He has emulated the original composers styles perfectly whilst using his own creativity to apply the styles to several new themes. If you love the music found in Banjo-Kazooie and want more of the same then I would definitely recommend giving JD Mosers works a listen, particularly Bear and Bird.

Bear and Bird – A Review

My Influences

Below I have curated a playlist on Soundcloud which contains a range of artists and works that I draw inspiration from. Some of them are amateurs like myself that are producing work that I can actively participate in the development of and some are established professionals.

I chose mainly video game music as it has the most impact on me as a composer and I particularly favor the works of composers who include a great deal of sound design in their works to really paint a theme. For example the chirping crickets in “Krikit Kingdom” by J.D. Moser really set the stage for you while you’re listening.

I have separated my influences into a few different categories, orchestral remixs, Triple A originals and amateur originals.

 

My Influences